Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was born in Orel, Russia, on November 9, 1818, into a family of wealthy landed gentry. His childhood was spent on his mother’s estate. His father, Sergey Turgenev, was a member of an impoverished noble family, and his father’s marriage to the wealthy and domineering Varvara Petrovna Lutovinova was primarily one of convenience. Sergey Turgenev left the management of both the family and the estate to his wife, leaving himself free to pursue his lifelong passion—women. Both parents served as obvious models for many of the characters in Turgenev’s plays and novels.
At an early age, young Turgenev witnessed the injustices and harsh punishments of Russia’s feudal system, administered by his mother to the serfs on her estate. Such an environment aroused in him a strong compassion for the victims of his mother’s tyranny. The ignorance and backwardness that Turgenev observed in this outdated rural society may in part have caused his preference for European civilization and his reluctance to spend much time either on his estate or indeed in any part of Russia. In spite of this, the beauty of his ancestral countryside ignited in him a lasting love of Russia’s rural landscapes, such as the ponds, gardens, and lime groves on the estate, so lyrically depicted in many of his works.
As was typical of the nineteenth century Russian gentry, the education of the young Turgenev was entrusted to a series of foreign tutors until the family moved in 1827 to Moscow, where he was enrolled at the Weydenhammer Preparatory School. There he first came under the influence of the “pseudosublime” school of Russian literature when he began to read such Russian Romantics as the novelist-playwright Mikhail Zogoskin and the poet Vladimir Benediktov. In the fall of 1829, Turgenev and his brother Nikolai...
(The entire section is 751 words.)